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Delhi High Court Issues Notice On Contempt Application Filed By Telecom Watchdog Citing Interference With Administration Of Justice

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
2 Sep 2021 8:53 AM GMT
Delhi High Court Issues Notice On Contempt Application Filed By Telecom Watchdog Citing Interference With Administration Of Justice
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The Delhi High Court today issued notice on an application for initiation of contempt, filed by Telecom Watchdog in the case pertaining to grant of telecom contracts to private players under the Universal Services Obligation, allegedly without conducing a tender process.The contempt petition is filed against Secretary, DoT; Deputy Administrator (T-II), USO Fund, DoT; and certain Police...

The Delhi High Court today issued notice on an application for initiation of contempt, filed by Telecom Watchdog in the case pertaining to grant of telecom contracts to private players under the Universal Services Obligation, allegedly without conducing a tender process.

The contempt petition is filed against Secretary, DoT; Deputy Administrator (T-II), USO Fund, DoT; and certain Police officials, for allegedly causing interference with the administration of justice by threatening the Petitioner organization's President with criminal legal action.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh has however refused to issue notices to Police officials at this stage.
The present PIL was filed in last year, challenging the award of contracts by Department of Telecommunications indirectly to private parties without tender, which has further sub-contracted the said works to various private companies without any tender on nomination basis. It was claimed that the matter involves several thousands of crores of rupees.
Accordingly, the Court had sought response from the Central Government in December 2020.
In the instant application for contempt, it is claimed that the Government is yet to file a reply and meanwhile, it is making attempts to harass the Petitioner. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Petitioner, informed the Court that the Delhi Police has lodged an FIR against the Petitioner-organization's President for allegedly leaking certain confidential documents of the Telecom Authority and is now threatening to arrest him.
"The conduct of the Delhi Police in calling Signing authority of the Petitioner organisation to the police station and subsequently asking him to reveal / disclose the source of the documents filed before this Hon'ble Court (and to face consequences if he doesn't do so) is direct and blatant interference with the due course of judicial proceedings and obstruction of administration of justice, amounting to criminal contempt of this Hon'ble Court," the application states.
Advocate Bhushan submitted before the Court that in similar circumstances, when a litigant before the Supreme Court was being pressurized to give in, contempt notice was issued to the Responding authority. He was referring to the case of Arnab Goswami, where contempt notice to the Assistant Secretary of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for sending a letter to Goswami, for allegedly intimidating him for approaching the court against the privilege notice issued by the Assembly.
"This amounts to direct interference in the administration of justice. The intention of the author of the letter seems to be to intimidate the petitioner (ArnabGoswami) because he approached this court and to threaten him with a penalty for doing so," the Supreme Court had observed. 
The Respondents on the other hand, represented by ASG Chetan Sharma and counsel Vikramjit Banerjee, contended that this is a proxy litigation and the Court must put the Petitioner to a strict scrutiny of locus. It was also stated that the criminal proceedings are independent of the pending PIL.
The Court has issued notice on the application and has posted it for hearing with the main matter on September 17.
Case Title: Telecom Watchdog v. Union of India & Ors.
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